By Anna Skinner
Judy Schwinghammer was never one to look toward water for healing. Yet when she had shoulder surgery and was still unable to use her arm very well, the Westfield woman decided to turn to warm water therapy.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t use my arm,” Judy said. “I was devastated by the loss of not being able to use my arm. The doctor suggested water therapy but didn’t know where.”
Judy’s husband, Dan, did some research and sought out PrimeLife Enrichment Center in Carmel, but Judy was originally apprehensive since she had not been in the water in more than 50 years. After being a victim to polio as a child, Judy didn’t have full use of her leg and couldn’t swim.
She began working with Betsy Fowler, a fitness program coordinator at PrimeLife.
“Betsy just slowly worked with me through the months,” she said. “I would come in pain, and I would leave with my pain subsiding. Through those months, I started healing and getting better, and I realized she leads with her heart.”
With Judy’s shoulder injury, the doctor told her to expect approximately eight months to heal. While working with Fowler, she healed in half that time
In addition to helping with Judy’s shoulder recovery, the warm water therapy also aided with her leg strength and her self-consciousness.
“All these good things were happening, and she started breaking through this shield, and I started talking more about polio, and I realized she cares, not just about me, but she reaches out to everyone,” Judy said of Fowler’s teaching. “When you walk in to this place, it’s a place of hope. Many deal with age related issues and there’s such a great support system here.”
And although Judy’s arm has healed, she said she plans to remain in warm water therapy, as it has helped her with stress relief, muscle building, and has improved her heartrate and respiration. Dan originally only went with her for support, but began using the aerobic water classes to aid his arthritis.
“We coined PrimeLife as a gold mine, right here in Carmel,” Dan said. “I want other people to know what we’ve experienced here.”
PrimeLife is not just for those with age-related issues or who are retired. Fitness activities are available for ages 21 and older, and all other activities are for ages 50 or older.
“The water is therapeutic even if you’re not doing therapy in it,” Fowler said, who has taught water classes at PrimeLife for more than six years. “Like with people who can’t work out on land because of weight problems can in the water because of gravity. It’s a slow progression, but if people stick with it, it’s worth it. Water walking is something anybody can benefit from, especially when they’re older.”
While PrimeLife has helped Dan and Judy physically, it also broke them out of their shells socially. The couple said that doors are never closed at the facility and they can speak with the staff whenever they desire.
“We pretty much stayed to ourselves until we got here, and all of a sudden we are mixing with others and being social,” Dan said. “This has changed us. We are finding out there are some wonderful people here.”
The couple goes a few times each week, and although Judy has healed, she still has one more goal.
“I’ve got this dream, and I would love to learn how to swim,” she said. “I’m more open to the water, and I’m not so self-conscious anymore. It’s a gift.”
Location: 1078 Third Ave. SW, Carmel
Memberships: Three levels – bronze, silver or gold. Paid quarterly.
Other services: Transportation, health education, community outreach, fitness activities.